Ted Lange talks 'Love Boat' and diversity at the Oscars
'We were getting paid a lot of money. We were on television. We met actors we always wanted to meet.'
Ted Lange made a near-indelible mark on the minds of TV viewers in the late 70s and 80s as Isaac Washington, the lovable bartender aboard The Love Boat.
But of course Lange's career didn't end when that cruise ship docked for the last time, nor has it been limited to on-screen roles.
The 68-year-old has appeared in multiple movies and TV shows since and is also an accomplished playwright, with more than two dozen productions under his belt.
Cluff: What sort of memories do you have from your time on the show?
Lange: "We had such a great time. We were getting paid a lot of money. We were on television. We met actors we always wanted to meet [...] Not only that, we also caught people at the beginnings of their careers like Tom Hanks, Billy Crystal, Martin Short. We got to work with them and play with them and make some laughter."
Cluff: You also wrote and directed some Love Boat episodes. How has that shaped your career since?
Lange: "It was a platform for me to stretch, and I carried for instance the writing. I wrote some episodes which led to me becoming a playwright after the show went down. So to date, I've written 25 plays, and my latest play is called The Cause, My Soul, which is a prequel to [William Shakespeare's] Othello."
Cluff: Do you ever get tired being associated with Isaac?
Lange: "I think the first five years after the show went down I was trying to put it aside, then after that, you gotta give into it [...] It's not going anywhere, and they love you for it. And I mean it's not like I played a villain and everyone goes 'ugh, there's that guy again', but everybody loved Isaac. He made you feel good, and so I embraced it after about the first five years."
Cluff: How has The Love Boat stood the test of time?
Lange: "It was very idealistic, that you would be able to figure out the problems of the world. If you got on this boat, by the time you got off, you know how to deal with whatever the situation was. And that's an optimism that I think we'd like to have today, with some of the stuff that's going on in the world. [...] It was about idealism and intent and love conquers all."
Cluff: Are you still in communication with other cast members?
Lange: "We love each other. The great thing about the show is after it went down, we remained friends, because we love each other. I went and saw Gavin [MacLeod] in a play in Palm Springs about two or three months ago, so yeah, we remained friends."
Cluff: How do you feel about the apparent lack of racial diversity in the Oscar nominations?
Lange: "They have to address the issue [...] When I first did love boat, they only had me in the bar. Everybody else greeted people getting on the boat and I said 'Hey how come I'm not there?' They said, 'Well, you're the bartender. Why would you be greeting people on the ship?' I said, 'Well why is the captain? He should be in the bridge. Why is the doctor? He should be in sick bay.' Now I know that was a form of racism, but I couldn't say that, so I had to manipulate the situation through character, and eventually we got it so that I became a part of the ensemble."